The Microfoundations of Territorial Disputes: Evidence from a Survey Experiment in Japan

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Although territorial disputes are one of the most fraught issues among states, how public opinion on territorial disputes varies within states and what explains the variation are often overlooked. This paper argues that citizens who prioritize economic considerations are more likely to support compromises over such disputes, while those who prioritize a country’s reputation tend to reject any compromise. Further, the paper hypothesizes that such variation in individual preferences can be explained by proximity to disputed territories. Counterintuitively, residents closer to disputes are more likely to support a compromise than those who live further away, because they are more affected by economic considerations. Those far from the disputed territory can afford to focus on its political aspects, which leads to a more hawkish stance. By using an experimental approach within Japan, this paper examines the validity of the spatial argument, and tests the relative salience of economic and political aspects of territorial disputes. The findings, based on original survey data, show that distance from disputed territories shapes individual preferences, and under some conditions, people living further away from disputed territories are more hawkish.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)516-538
Number of pages23
JournalConflict Management and Peace Science
Issue number5
Early online date21-Jul-2015
Publication statusPublished - 1-Nov-2016
Externally publishedYes

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